Tales of the Riverbank tells the story of three furry friends -Hammy Hamster, Roderick Rat and GP the Guinea Pig - who having been swept down river in a huge storm, embark on an epic voyage in search of their lost homes. Their expedition full of comic incident and drama becomes even more precarious when they discover that the whole riverbank is threatened by a Waffle, Marmalade and Doughnut (WMD) factory owned by the evil Fat Cats that's polluting the countryside with increasingly dangerous emissions - the Big Dirt! Along their journey to save the riverbank our little heroes encounter a colourful cast of characters including an imposing matron of a rabbit, Miss Munch; her clairvoyant hamster friend Betty; an operatically Italian pig Al Fresco with a frisky flea circus and a whole host of amusing animals that help them along their way. Join all these comical characters in an exciting and heart-warming film for all the family.
I suspect I have long outgrown the target demographic of this film ages ago. Watching it reminds me of the Saturday mornings that I used to watch puppet animations such as Lamb Chop’s Play-Along. Unfortunately, I must admit that at this age I wasn’t very much entertained by Tales of the Riverbank.
Based on a television series that was popular in the UK in the ‘70s and ‘80s (I can’t remember seeing it on local television), Tales of the Riverbank follows three riverside creatures that meet after one huge flood. They are Hammy the Hamster (Ardal O’Hanlon), GP the guinea pig (Jim Broadbent) and Roderick Rat (Steve Coogan). As a sign of the times, these three main characters are now CG-ed, though don’t expect the live-action animation to be on the same level as Stuart Little.
The first half of the movie is more or less spent on allowing Hammy, GP and Roderick to meet other riverside creatures- the rest of these creatures realised however through puppet animation (the difference is quite noticeable). As this is a British production, expect moments of British wit sprinkled in between although I wouldn’t call the overall result particularly smart.
The second half introduces an adventure where our three furry friends take on the sinister Waffles, Marmalade and Doughnut Corporation (WMD Corporation, get the pun?) now overrun by fat cats intent on using it to make money (yes, literally) and pollute the countryside. Unlike its more sluggish first-half, the pace here picks up considerably (which is probably a relief if you have to sit through this with your kid).
Director John Henderson preserves a certain old-school charm with the talking animals but sadly, I don’t see his movie finding much of an audience. The movie moves too languidly to keep adults who may have watched the original TV series and are looking for a bit of nostalgia entertained. While its core demographic of young tots may probably find the furry creatures cute, the amateurish quality of the animation will likely not hold their attention for long.
For what it’s worth, the voice actors do inject some personality into their respective characters. However, again the lacklustre animation means that some of the nuance is lost through what facial expression their characters should have conveyed. Despite its best intentions therefore, Tales of the Riverbank didn’t work for me. Not that I didn’t try...but somehow it failed to be entertaining or nostalgic for me.
SPECIAL FEATURES :
Only a Making Of which essentially tells of how the classic TV series came to be translated into a full-length feature film and a trailer.
Picture’s decent enough though the colours could be sharper. The audio’s surprisingly fine in Dolby 5.1 to give you a surround sound effect of what it feels like to be at the countryside.
by Gabriel Chong